[Tweeters] Crested Caracara vagrancy

Ryan Merrill rjm284 at gmail.com
Tue Jun 16 10:01:35 PDT 2015

I for one do not find this Crested Caracara's appearance in Washington to
be all that surprising. Their expected range in the United States is mainly
restricted to parts of southern Arizona, Texas, and Florida, but
particularly in the past decade vagrants have shown up regularly across the
continent including such northern places as Revelstoke, British Columbia
and several times in Nova Scotia. It may be somewhat surprising for the
caracara to be so far into the foothills, but I could envision a scenario
where it ended up following the river and heading up the valley. Then when
not wanting to ascend up and over the pass, it looked for an area
resembling its natural habitat which is hard to come by in the vicinity of
Skykomish. Some of the best potential places when looking at the satellite
pictures of the area appear to be the ballfield, airfield, and the current
neighborhood it's been inhabiting, all of which have hosted the bird in the
past week.

The bird is unbanded, there are no jesses, and I didn't notice any abnormal
wear that might suggest it had been in a cage recently. In the past
vagrant Crested Caracaras were assumed by several records committees to be
of unnatural origin, including the records committees of California,
Massachusetts, and Washington, but considering their the recent frequency
of vagrant birds across the continent and relative scarcity of captive
birds, it seems that most vagrant caracaras are now deemed to be likely
natural vagrants.

More can be read online in their reports:

Massachusetts, accepting two Crested Caracara records:

Washington, initially rejecting the Crested Caracara records:

Washington, later accepting the Crested Caracara records:

Rare Birds of California by Hamilton, Patten and Erickson (a book I highly
recommend for those birders interested in vagrancy patterns, particularly
in western North America) does mention that some of California's Crested
Caracara reports have involved known escapees, but it doesn't go into
detail on those. It does mention that as of 15 March 2005 there were "19
captive Crested Caracaras at zoos and other participating institutions in
North America." The book lists 8 accepted records, plus 10 that weren't
accepted (for varying reasons including identification not being
established and questionable natural occurrence) and 10 that weren't
submitted. The CBRC website lists another 53 accepted records since 2004
which weren't included in the book. The Oregon Bird Records Committee
website lists 8 accepted records, 7 of which have been since 2005.
Washington has three previously accepted records: one at Ocean Shores in
Aug 1983, one at Neah Bay in Jan-Feb 1998, and one near Oakville in late
May 2006. There is an older record from 1936 that is not accepted.
British Columbia has three records, all of which were adults, according to
this summary:


Ryan Merrill
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